Tuesday, September 14, 2010

To gel or not to gel, 'tis a nurse's question.

If you have spend any time in a hospital or doctor's office you're bound to have noticed bottles of hand sanitizing gel. They seem to be everywhere these days! They are nailed on the inside and outside of rooms, bathroom, as well as entrances and exits. You are reminded to "gel in and gel out" before entering the hospital, after leaving the hospital, before and after leaving a patient's room, etc, etc. Advocates say using hand sanitizers are quicker and more effective than hand washing. There is no need to sing the birthday song (to make sure you wash for at least 15 - 20 seconds) as you use hand sanitizer. In addition, hand gels are convenient when soap and water may not be available (in the car, on a hike, or during a disaster). The occasional use here and there is great, but for us nurses if we used hand sanitizer every time we are suppose to (before and after entering a patient's room, after using gloves, before dispensing medication, and in general after any patient contact) we would use hand gel hundreds of time in an eight hour shift (forget about a 12 hour shift)! All that alcohol cannot be that great for the skin and who knows about the long-term effects on the rest of our body. Alcohol, after all, is a neurotoxin. Being able to use hand gel is a time saver, and when I'm slammed with several patients, being able to use it quickly is definitely a plus, but at what cost? Since the widespread use of hand gel is relatively new (within the last 5 to 7 years) long-term heavy use has yet to be studied. What if at the end of my 25 year career I end up with neurological effects from alcohol poisoning? No thank you. At least for me, I'll be spending the extra 30 seconds washing my hands with soap and water instead of lubing my hands with Purell.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

You are going to put that where!?!

Like a skilled archer drawing back her bow, I take aim, release, and hit my target. Bull's-eye. But unlike an archer, my arrows are my fingers, and my target, while similar in color and shape, is my patient's puckering strings. I am referring to, of course, giving suppositories. Suppositories, for my non-medical readers, are medicines given anally. Part of a nurse's job is to deliver these medicines through the butt of our patients, using our skilled, delicate digits. Not all fingers are created equal. I recently discovered that one of my God-given talents is delivering suppositories in a pain-free, almost pleasurable fashion. I don't meant to toot my own horn (pun intended), but all of my patients with whom I've blessed with my fingers have each given me a compliment. One elderly man proclaimed that I had given him, "the best suppository of my life!" Each one of us, as we become nurses, bring something unique that will aid us in our careers. While I could have made my fortune tickling ivory keys with my slender tactile members, I instead, answered the call of my vocation. As I put on gloves, lube up my fingers, and ask my patient to take a deep breath and relax, I take comfort knowing that in the end, I am making a difference.

That's not in my job description

Today I discovered a new hellish nightmare in the health care world. . . being a sitter. While wiping obese bottoms and handling fists full of feces may sound horrific, being a sitter is definitely one of Dante's inner rings of hell. A sitter, for those of you not in the know, is someone who literally sits and watches a patient who is at risk of falling (think of a babysitter, but adults). The patient may be confused, agitated, demented, or impulsive, but the results are the same: you sitting on your rear end for at least four hours hoping that you throw a blood clot. I've seen sitters on my floor before and it didn't seem too bad, every room has only one patient, a TV, and a computer. The worst that can happen is a sleeping patient while you catch up on your trash TV or your email. My experience, however, was somewhat different (and I assume was punishment for my involvement in a genocide in a previous life). The unit on which I was a sitter contained only double occupancy rooms, so even if my patient was fast asleep my TV watching was competing with the neighbor's TV watching. No computer in the room meant I couldn't even silently ignore my patient with Facebook or BBC NEWS (J/K I never fully ignored my patient). My patient was fast asleep during the first half of my shift and after watching an hour of "30 Rock" and reading every article in "Ladies Home Journal," I. . . was. . . bored! I decided not to end my misery by putting the blood pressure around my neck, but instead to use my time productively. I played MASH (I ended up with 8 kids, a small house, and my husband would be rich), spaced out farts so no one would catch on, and imagined what it would be like to destroy Seattle in a fit of rage, like Mothra. At some point the patient woke up and babysitting became somewhat more interesting. When the time came for me to pack it up and call it a night, I was more that happy to do so. If anything, this experience reminded how grateful I am for those nights when I'm so busy I could scream. Too busy, in my mind at least, is always better than being too bored.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Is that Maalox gluten-free??

"Is that Maalox gluten-free?"

Now, as someone who has food allergies I can understand about being cautious about the things that I put into my body (at least the things that I'm eating anyway), but when it comes to medicines that are meant to speed up my recovery/cure an illness, I'd make an exception. At the risk of sounding insensitive or mean, I'm not entirely convinced that folks who have gluten "allergies" are actually for real. In the medical world, an allergy is something that is usually life threatening. My former roommate, for example, goes into anaphylactic shock just by looking at fish inappropriately. That, my dear readers, is an allergy. If high fructose corn syrup or gluten upsets your tummy, well, I'm not entirely convinced I should hold your antibiotics! If, on the other hand, eating a peanut forces me to give you oxygen up the butt because that is the only hole in your body that hasn't swollen shut, then I'm convinced.